Rilke always goes. “Lord, it’s time. The summer was very big. ”How we would have loved to have sighed in October 2020. As every year, exhausted, tired, overflowing with impressions, but happy. Because our festival summer was again a big one, at least a rich one. Will it happen this fall? Rather not.
The Bayreuth Festival has just been canceled. And the new “ring” has been postponed to 2022. There are many inherent system and pandemic reasons. For example, a poorly ventilated, aisle-free festival hall, in which a crowd of sixties from sixty upwards squeezes onto narrow wooden seats and immediately, the light has gone out, coughing from tuxedo jackets and stoles. And where, it rains, because of the lack of foyers, crowding in tight quarters, sausage rolls, jostling.
The orchestra, meanwhile, is crouched in a hidden ditch – close to each other, mostly experienced and therefore mostly not quite young musicians, not necessarily fully clothed. If there was a dissemination paradise, it would be called the Bayreuth Festival Theater. It could have become the Ischgl of the opera world.
Just like the brave Salzburg Festival, which has not yet been canceled. Because here, too, there is: a rich – well – older clientele who stumbles every day in a provincial capital, which is already flooded with tourist crowds, gasping for breath through heat waves or rain in narrow streets. And then, also in thousands, in theater buildings, in order to afterwards drink and eat what is seen in what is not exactly generous bars, drinking and eating. And that for six weeks.
Will that still be possible now? Would we enjoy carefree if there is no corona vaccine yet? Can this still be done with missing seniors in permanent quarantine? We will have to do without the Salzburg Festival and the Bayreuth Festival. And probably also at all other festivals, festivals, chamber music re-controls, artist encounters. And that’s right.
However, those responsible in Salzburg, as far as they express themselves, still stick to their appointments. Salzburg begins on July 18, Bayreuth traditionally would have started on July 25th, the Lucerne Festival as the largest of the Switzerland Mid August. That was a long time ago, but will it be enough in the Austrian and Swiss cases?
In Salzburg, the artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser gives us courage using a three-step plan. The summer festival must be started behind the scenes on 30 May at the latest. In Lucerne, Michael Haefliger, as head of a flexible orchestral festival, is confident with no scenic productions. But behind the scenes you can hear something else.
It would have been extraordinary vintages for both of the most important German-language opera festivals: Salzburg would like to celebrate its 100th anniversary with great pomp, especially with even more performances, and a new “Ring des Nibelungen” would have been available in Bayreuth from July 27th. Four premieres in six days with almost 16 hours of music, the most powerful production company that knows the music world.
In Bayreuth the rehearsals should have started on April 1st, otherwise it would have been tight because in the end three more, resumed Wagner works had to share a stage. Contracts for orchestras, singers and security forces should have been finalized, and millions of people are juggling right now. The Board of Directors has now rightly decided against it. Because what would have been if there had been a suspicion of corona among the international actors? Closing from now on!
Also in Salzburg you have to Austria has just announced the shutdown until the end of April, certainly at least to forego the Pentecost Festival of Cecilia Bartoli starting on May 29th. Just like the opening of the anniversary exhibition at the end of April. That would have little impact for the summer, but why should everything be different again? How should the participants and the audience come in from all over the world, if many nations still have closed borders, and air traffic functions only minimally?
How should international orchestras come to Lucerne that have run out of money or because, as has long been the case in America, from the Metropolitan Opera to the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, the musicians were fired? And will the public still be able and willing to pay up to 430 euros in Salzburg or 350 francs in Lucerne? Will sponsors jump out? Or who balances the budgets, if maybe only every third place can be sold preventively?
Other institutions have long since decided on this hard cut: No festivals this summer in Burgenland, neither the Operetta Festival Mörbisch nor the opera in the Roman quarry in St. Margarethen, which attracted thousands every day. In England, with the exception of the Glyndebourne Festival, which is now planned to start on July 14th instead of May 21st, all other privately financed summer operas for 2020 have already closed their doors; the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk, founded by Benjamin Britten, which was due to start on June 12, was also canceled.
The third largest Swiss summer festival in Verbier has already given up. Here, event locations would have to be built up, the youth orchestra as the backbone of the program would surely have preludes that cannot take place. In Bayreuth – hopefully – the normal schedule will run with a new “Dutchman” in summer 2021; this year’s “ring” singers will be required elsewhere in May and June 2021, and will have to earn back any money they have just lost. So we will have to wait two years until we experience a new “ring” from Valentin Schwarz.
So we have to stick to Rilke’s “autumn day” until further notice: “Who is alone now will stay long, / will watch, read, write long letters / and will wander back and forth / restlessly in the avenues if the leaves are floating. “